As on his recording Requiem, dedicated to his longtime friend and pianist Kenny Kirkland, Branford Marsalis dedicates this recording to his mentors, friends, and jazz icons who had passed away prior to its recording. The CD varies between his tenor or alto saxophone celebratory-led post and neo-bop compositions, or the somber, reflective slower songs featuring the soprano sax of Marsalis. This exceptional band, together for ten years, with drummer Jeff Watts, bassist Eric Revis, and pianist Joey Calderazzo, communicate with utter confidence and the mastery of expert professional musicians who need few verbal or charted cues to spring forth into action. Thelonious Monk's influence is recognizable on the jagged edged, quirky Watts composition "The Return of the Jitney Man," the straight, no-frills hard bop chaser "Jabberwocky" where Marsalis borrows a page from the book of Charlie Rouse, a take of "Rhythm-A-Ning" moves from straight-ahead to staggering funk, with most of the intact original line phrase, while "Sphere," composed by Revis, is an original angular adaptation of Monk's style without much paraphrasing . A tribute to the actor, "Abe Vigoda" is a crusty and dusty ballad, "The Blossom of Parting" a reverent, sad song for the departed, and "The Last Goodbye" a similarly themed ballad, all with Marsalis on the soprano. Perhaps the most original piece is "And Then He Was Gone/Samo," featuring an extended solo from Revis, intentionally messy and frustrated, followed by the finale, a funky 7/8 soul and spirit song. A fine, emotional and heartfelt effort from Marsalis, one of his best since Requiem, it faithfully pays tribute to those late heroes like Alvin Batiste, Michael Brecker, Freddie Hubbard, Dewey Redman, Max Roach, Willie Turbinton, et. al., while also staying true to himself.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos